How Does Tye Ruotolo Match Up With Craig Jones?

The 18-year-old American phenom, Tye Ruotolo vs. Craig Jones, “Mr. Number Two,” the Australian superstar, is the latest chapter in the Team Atos vs. Danaher Death Squad (DDS) storybook.

Can the young teenager slay the biggest dragon he’s faced to date, or will he be overwhelmed during his coming-of-age story?

On Friday, June 18th, at FloGrappling’s Who’s Number One (WNO), we find out.

ATOS Jiu Jitsu’s youngest squad member, Tye Ruotolo, the 18-year-old brown belt under the legendary Andre Galvao, is one of the fastest rising stars in our sport. 

Two years ago, he took 4th place at the 66kg division amongst legends during the 2019 Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC) world championships, which many deem the Olympics of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. 

He used his signature leg pin guard passing system, dynamic wrestling, including his favored inside trip, and Darce Choke to cement him as the youngest ADCC competitor in history.


Will his repertoire of skills be enough against the master leg locker, Craig Jones? 

The 2019 ADCC (88kg) silver medalist has a 47-17-2 competitive record, with 39 submission wins. 

He won his last three WNO events via inside heel hook. 

He submitted his opponents, a well-seasoned BJJ stalwart— Luiz Panza, a young phenom named Roberto Jimenez, and an ATOS standout, Ronaldo Junior, within minutes. 

The Aussie is one of — if not — the most prolific leg locker on this planet.

However, according to Tye Ruotolo, his adversary’s leg locking skills don’t faze him much. 

During an interview with FloGrappling, he said, “I wouldn’t take a match; I didn’t think I could win.” 

Bold words from the teenage… I wonder if Craig Jones will be able to punish Tye Ruotolo into submission? 

Or will we witness another case of a spry “Gen Z” youth disrespecting his elders?

Let’s dive deeper to see how this match may play out. 

Tyu Ruotolo

Record: 16-6-0

Height: 5’10” | Weight: 170-185 | Age: 18

Wins:  4 SUB, 8 decisions, 3 points, 1 OT takedown  Losses: 2 SUB, 2 points, 1 Golden Score 

Noticeable Wins: Nicky Ryan, William Tackett, Vagner Rocha, Bruno Frazatto

Noticeable Losses: Roberto Jimenez, Dante Leon, Paulo Miyao, Kennedy Maciel 

Current Ranking: #3 Welterweight | Last match: William Tackett

Fighter’s Weaknesses: 

Tye Ruotolo does not have many flaws in his game.

Time after time, he has shown to remedy his deficiencies as soon as they arise. 

For example, after losing to DDS squad member Ethan Crelinsten in the 2018 ADCC North American Trials via toehold, he realized he was vulnerable to leglock attacks.

Over the next few years, he focused profusely on improving his lower body defense, reflected in his subsequent victories against elite-level leg lockers like Nicky Ryan, Taza Garami, and William Tackett.

Two of the three individuals above being a part of DDS.

In his last match against a larger, William Tackett, he shutdown Tackett’s lower body entries with relative ease, eventually taking his back. 

He adapted his back attack counters from a Gi-based Jiu-Jitsu game to submission grappling, which is not necessarily easy. 

That said, although Ruotolo is proficient in his offensive and defensive skills, his youth means he lacks experience competing at the highest levels against significantly larger opponents. 

Usually, we think of youth as a good thing, but youth is a variable that is hard to measure in combat sports.

I’d argue that experience trumps all other variables in grappling because experience translates to more time on the mat.

I.e., more time towards your 10,000 hours of mastery. 

In Ruotolo’s case, his “youth” could end up being a double-edged sword for him.

David Mamet’s once said, “Old age and treachery will always beat youth and exuberance.

Fighter’s Strengths:

Tye is proficient in all areas of grappling, but his main strengths are his dynamic wrestling, Darce chokes, and passing sequences.  

If you watch Ruotolo’s matches against three men considered to have significant wrestling skills Kody Steele and Renato Canuto

At first glance, he comes out hard, pushes the pace, and uses his ATOS style hand fighting into the clinch to put pressure on his opponent’s necks, which eventually wears them down.

But upon further scrutiny, you notice his elbows are always in, his back is straight, and his timing is impeccable. 

He’s not just a Jiu-Jitsu athlete who knows how to wrestle…. he carries himself like a wrestler.

And even when he can’t outwrestle them like in his match with seasoned veteran Vagner Rocha, he can still capitalize on his opponent’s superior wrestling skills.

When Vagner went for his signature single-leg, taking Ruotolo down, the teenager transitioned into a sankaku and was able to clamp his legs around Vagner’s neck. 

He didn’t win by submission; be he did score the victory. 

Tye Ruotolo’s superb wrestling skills work in tandem with his dynamic passing, which he starts implementing once his opponents hit the ground.

Ruotolo never lets his opponents rest on their laurels. 

He constantly stays in a good stance, ready to pounce on his opponent and keep the pressure coming or defend their barrage of attacks. 

At the young age of 18, many practitioners consider Tye to be a “complete” grappler. 

Craig Jones

  • Record: 47-17-2
  • Height: 6’0” | Weight: 190-210 | Age: 29 
  • Wins:  39 SUB, 4 decisions, 2 points, 2 OT, 
  • Losses: 4 SUB, 6 points, 4 OT, 1 Decision, 2 Penalty 
  • Noticeable Wins: Vinny Magalhaes, Keenan Cornelius Vagner Rocha, Roberto Jimenez 
  • Noticeable Losses: Kaynan Duarte, Gordan Ryan, Mason Fowler 
  • Current Ranking: #4 Light Heavyweight | Last match: Luiz Panza
Stats Via BJJ Heroes

Fighter’s Weaknesses: 

We all know Craig Jones has two significant weaknesses, his wrestling and, surprisingly, his leglocks.

His matches consist of the Aussie “sitting guard” because his wrestling is frequently not on par with his opponents’ wrestling. 

But this does not mean his wrestling is “bad,” he’s still a world-class athlete.

Or perhaps, his experience on the mats may cause him to believe, cost-benefit analysis, that wrestling wastes too much time and energy.

Regardless of his reasoning, the deficiency is apparent.

However, because he is a prolific leg locker who pulls guard, his lack of wrestling does not matter much— if he does not give his adversary a chance to capitalize on his weakness.

That is a tactically sound approach because his bread and butter are lower body entanglements. 

Craig Jones is so fundamentally sound in leglocks, 

the chances of him getting his back taken are slim.

Over the last few years, he rarely must resort to his “B” or “C” games to finish his opponents.  

… That said, a slim chance does not mean zilch. 

The main weakness in any leg locker’s game, including Mr. Jones, is that attacking lower body submission exposes your back to counter attacks.

Ruotolo is an opponent with good timing, who was able to exploit the weaknesses of Tackett’s leglock entries— Craig Jones may be vulnerable. 

If you watched Craig’s previous match with Kaynan Duarte at Kasai Pro 5 in 2019, you noticed he opts to sit guard at the beginning of the match and starts working his typical heel hook entry.

Within the first minute, Kaynan immediately counters Craig’s outside ashi-garami entry and ends up taking his back.

Seconds later, submitting Craig Jones via rear-naked strangulation in under two minutes. 

Sometimes, a master forgets to check the expiration date on his bread and butter, and it grows moldy and expires.

Can Tye Ruotolo show Craig Jones his leg locking techniques are a relic of the past?

Fighter’s Strengths:

Craig Jones wins many of his matches via inside or outside heel hook.

However, he’s excellent at rear-naked strangulations too.

28% of Jones’s submission victories are by rear-naked strangulation: taking out elite competitors such as Aaron “Tex” Johnson, Jon “Thor” Blank, and a legend like Leandro Lo.

However, these two techniques aren’t his only strengths. 

During his breakout performance in ADCC 2017, you might remember Craig submitting grappling titan Murillo Santana via flying sankaku. 

Craig Jones was well-known for his triangles long before he implemented lower body submissions into his game. 

Additionally, if you watch some of Craig’s practice tapes on Flo Grappling or YouTube, over the past 18 months, he’s always working guillotines, Darces, or some variation.

I bet he continues to refine his sankaku and guillotine every day.

If you don’t believe me, look at what his coach has to say.

During an interview with the FloGrappling team, the legendary John Danaher said that the increasing deadliness of Craig’s guillotines is not to be taken lightly.

We will not see the passing of the torch next weekend… we will in the future.

It won’t be easy, but the Aussie will force the ATOS prodigy to play leglocks with him.

By doing so, Tye Ruotolo will be playing into Craig’s


And I don’t believe he has the counter defensive capabilities (at this point in his life) to capitalize on Jones’s lower body entries.

It’s not that Ruotolo’s leglock defense is inefficient; it’s that Jones’s attacks are significantly better than Tye’s defense.

Craig is much larger and more accomplished than Tye Ruotolo and is more knowledgeable about leg lock strategy and breaking mechanics. 

Many of his opponents don’t have the competency to counter his leglocks, so they “hop” around and stall as Ronaldo Junior did.

But when they decide to press forward and attack him, he inevitably uses a barrage of attacks to immobilize and then finish them.

Think of a spider entangling a fly in its web.

His more skillful opponents like Roberto Jimenez and Vinny Magalhaes can defend his first two or three submission attempts, but they fall prey to him after the third.

He submitted Jimenez on WNO in 2.5 minutes and broke Magalhares’s ankle on Chael Sonnen’s Submission Underground to the point where the fibula was almost piercing through the skin.

Besides Gordan Ryan, Kaynan Duarte, Mason Fowler, and 2019 ADCC gold medalist Matheus Diniz, there are not many athletes on the planet who can escape, let alone counter Craig Jones in a leg lock shoot out. 

I forecast Craig Jones will get to Tye Ruotolo’s lower body in under three minutes and submit him via Inside Heel Hook.

Honestly, Tye Ruotolo has the intelligence but not the experience to handle a well-seasoned vet like Craig Jones at this point in his career. 

… But I could be wrong.

Ruotolo could surprise us all by winning via Darce.

Although it’s statistically unlikely he does, if he can wrap his velociraptor-like arms around Craig’s neck, it might be over. 

Tye Ruotolo is an 18-year-old teenager who is not finished physically maturing and already has world-class fundamentals.

And remember, sound fundamentals fuel the greatest athletes in the world.

That’s my prediction, what’s yours?


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